Meet the Team: Q&A with Jeffrey Nipperess

2 August 2021

We’re back for another addition to our regular ‘Meet the Team’ series. In this interview, we catch up with our Sysadmin team member, Jeffrey.

Welcome to your meet the team experience, Jeff. You’re generally the guy in the background making sure everything works and runs smoothly for the team, but today we’d like to put you front and centre. Tell us about yourself and what a day in the life of a sysadmin team member is like!

I’m a thirty-two-year-old Australian, and I moved to the UK around mid-2018. I was initially going to settle in Bristol but came to Edinburgh because it seemed nicer up here and is a beautiful city to live in. On a typical day, I check our internal systems are working well, ensuring no significant problems arise for anyone. I research new ways to secure our internal and external systems, working with my teammates to solve any issues and what we can do when it comes to upcoming projects. I figure out the best way to move forward, equally trying not to spend too much money. I make sure everyone is happy working with the devices and the tech they use.

You’ve had some experience working back home in Australia and some experience now working here in Scotland. What was the biggest hurdle for you to jump through professionally?

Understanding the Scottish accent… Joking aside, it isn’t so much a hurdle, but I noticed that the pace here is pretty different to Australia. Since Condatis is my first workplace in the UK, it’s hard for me to compare the two fairly. However, what is noticeable is how priorities are handled and how closely you work with others across the organisation. Nowadays, I work a lot closer to people in the C-Suite and business than general support work. Overall, the experience has been great, and I’ve really enjoyed it.

When we moved to our current office at Links House, I got to pick the equipment and what would work for us without being second-guessed. My team trusted me, which was nice because it doesn’t often happen in many businesses. I spent time on my actual job and doing it correctly so that when we moved to the new office, everything worked, and everyone was satisfied and not burdened. Having everything seamless is brilliant – it keeps everyone happy without downtime to their work. Since the pandemic, getting and receiving kit and getting it to employees in time is probably the biggest hurdle. But with adequate planning, everything works relatively well.

Your sysadmin team structure is pretty interesting, with you handling Condatis mostly solo and your colleagues at Sitekit managing their systems. What’s the biggest challenge for you since the tenant separation and working along with such a structure?

The majority of the time, I’m working with the team at Condatis. Occasionally, I support other users at our sister business at Sitekit, just as my colleagues sometimes support us here at Condatis. For the most part, our systems are similar, and we keep things aligned as best as possible. One sysadmin team member looks after their business systems, and each of us has our knowledge of specific systems. We are making a point of having cross-knowledge across the entire Sitekit Group companies. For example, my colleague Shaun knows a lot more about Dynamics 365 than I do, but I would know more about how a backup or our payrolling system would work and what systems would go where. You can’t know absolutely everything because there are so many systems from different vendors. The great thing is that you can’t lose knowledge on something, but you can gain it with time and exposure to it.

What led you into working in tech?

It all started when I was fourteen. A friend of mine was into computers and taught me how to build and fix them. I took IT and computers in school and from there realised it was what I was best at and could get a job at and chose to get into it, as opposed to something else like sales or marketing. I studied IT at Charles Sturt University in a country town outside of Sydney for my bachelor’s degree, which was nice. I got to see kangaroos hopping around campus and had a slower pace of life. My first job after university was in apps support for a payroll company. I learned a lot of troubleshooting skills, and what I learned there I could apply now. Tech was the only thing I was interested in that I could have gotten a job in. Sometimes I want to get into something else, and like many thirty-somethings, I’m basically trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life.

You’ve been with Condatis for just over two years now; how have you seen the company develop?

Compared to when I started around Spring 2019, it’s become more organised, especially when it comes to onboarding. There’s been a shift in management, and we’re more focused. Internally within our sysadmin team, we’ve made many improvements by investing in new tech that makes our lives a lot easier than when I started. The things we used to worry about on a day to day aren’t an issue anymore. In September 2019, we moved from a smaller office in a different part of Leith to a new and nice office. We’re hiring more people in roles to focus on the various disciplines in the company. Some people used to wear many hats, but now it’s more itemised and focused, like our Chief People Officer and Chief Product Officer roles. When I first started, there was a massive surge in employees and projects. Like any company, we go through quiet periods and sudden surges to support rapid growth.

Working from home is a change for me. I never had a job where I could work from home before. I’m happy that we set up the office correctly because when COVID-19 hit, and we had to transition, everything was seamless, and there weren’t technical hurdles. Condatis is managed pretty much the same as if we were located on-site. Instead of a face-to-face coffee or chat with a co-worker, you’d Teams call them for a chat. And now we are used to being from home as opposed to the office. I wouldn’t say I liked it when I didn’t have space at my old flat, but now, I enjoy it more with my room in our new flat. You can basically do anything remotely.

Improving team morale is huge, especially with the current crisis. We’ve tried to find ways to keep our teams happy and engaged, but it’s pretty hard to pick something that everybody likes. So, if it were up to you, what team activities would you implement that would suit the current environment and post-covid?

I think chatting dinners would be great, and the pub quizzes that our HR team recently organised were good because it was pretty broad so most people can get involved. A few of us in the company have started to join a discord server and game together. People are at home a lot more, so more gaming for us! I previously suggested a LAN party and pizza with beer, a Friday night activity we could play as a team like Mario Kart. I would love to get together again in an outside space to have an Oink Hog Roast or barbecue and beer together.

It’s no secret that the tech industry is pretty heavily male-dominated. This is changing, and we see some great organisations out there promoting gender diversity, as well as cultural diversity. In your opinion, how do you think tech companies can build a more diverse team and company culture?

I think it comes down to the skill and quality of the person, regardless of gender or ethnicity. Don’t hire somebody to fill a quota. But if you find your company is lacking, definitely work to achieve gender balance and cultural diversity. Recently we hired more women developers, and I’m delighted we did. I’ve been working in tech for about ten years, and it’s mostly men. Having more women on our team brings something to the table by giving us their insights, opinions and views and influencing team decisions and direction. Diverse teams build great solutions. In Australia, it’s very multicultural, so I’m used to working with loads of different people. It’s excellent that we’re working towards building a diverse team. Since I’ve worked here, Condatis are very good at making diversity an active goal. We are diverse, and we’ve always been working to that. Our culture is our people. The people we hire and bring into the company are the people who will mould and change the way the company moves forward.

Let’s put a little bit more focus on Jeff out of the office. What movie or game do you recommend is an absolute must-see/play?

I definitely played a lot of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, where you play in ancient Greek times in an open-world setting. It has some mythical elements to it where you can meet the Minotaur and Medusa. I spent way too many hours on that game – probably about 110+ hours of my life. A movie I really like is Midnight in Paris, directed by Woody Allen. Owen Wilson plays a modern-day author who goes back to the 20s and meets famous novelists and artists and gets ideas from them. It’s an excellent film, and I highly recommend it!

If you had no obstacles and could travel somewhere tomorrow, where would you go and why?

Zurich in Switzerland and Interlaken. It’s a lovely city, clean and with good infrastructure, near the Swiss Alps where you can go up on mountain ranges and walk around without spending anything at all. In Interlaken, you could stay in a wooden cabin by water that looks like it’s out of a postcard. It’s a picturesque location that seems to be relatively untouched. I remember being there about eight years ago, travelling by myself doing the cliché Australian backpacker thing, and I remember it was stunning. My wallet didn’t like it, but I was just really happy to be there.

Tell us something about you that not many would know.

I’m really into Hi-Fi. I’m not an audiophile, but I live in a rental flat, so it’s hard to invest in that because of sound. As much as I’m your typical IT guy that loves computers, I love the outdoors and nature. Being stuck at home this year has been challenging, especially since we’ve been unable to go to the Highlands and be outdoors much.


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